Can a Dog Have Separation Anxiety from Another Dog?

If you share your life with more than one dog, have you noticed how anxious one gets when away from the other?

Just like a dog experiences separation anxiety when his humans are out, they can feel the same about being away from another dog. Whether it’s due to the death of their canine companion or a condition known as Littermate Syndrome, separation anxiety from another dog is real.  

When Do Dogs Feel Anxiety When Away from Another Dog?

That’s not a question that can be answered definitively. Some dogs get anxious when in a different room, others can’t handle being walked separately, some have trouble coping after the death of their doggie companion and some dogs are fine no matter what happens.

Let’s Look at Two Different Scenarios

♦ Mourning the loss of an animal companion

♦ Littermate Syndrome – being separated from their doggie sibling

Mourning the Loss of an Animal Companion

If you’ve ever suffered the loss of a dog, you may have noticed behavior changes in your surviving dog(s).

  • Loss of appetite
  • No interest in playing or going for walks
  • Whining/crying/anxious
  • Barking more
  • Clingy
  • Searching for the other dog
  • Lethargy

Some dogs gain in confidence, while others may not exhibit any changes at all.

Gain confidence? I’ve seen a few cases first hand where the remaining dog appeared more confident, walked better and longer and was friendlier. It’s like he came out of his shell, to put a human term to it.

What Does the Research Say?

In a survey conducted of 426 Italian dog owners, they found “Several negative behavioural changes were commonly reported in the surviving dog after the death of the other dog: attention seeking increased (67%), playing less (57%), level of activity reduced (46%), sleeping more (35%), fearfulness increased (35%), eating less (32%) and vocalisation increased (30%).”

The conclusion was, more research was needed to determine if dogs really experience grief, or it was just separation anxiety.

The article was published in Nature magazine in February 2022, and you can read it here – “Domestic dogs (Canis familiaris) grieve over the loss of a conspecific

There aren’t many studies, but there is plenty of anecdotal evidence showing behavior changes as a result of this loss. Does it really matter to the dog parent if their dog is actually grieving, or feeling anxious due to separation? The end result is the same.

Can one dog grieve the loss of another

Dogs Grieving the Loss of Another Dog – What My Research Shows

I conducted a survey of 293 senior dog owners, and 82% of them noticed a difference in one dog’s behavior after the death of another. Here are some of the signs they observed, virtually the same as those mentioned above:

  • Laying in the other dog’s bed
  • Searching the house for them
  • Loss of appetite
  • Slept more
  • Not interested in playing
  • Shortened walk times

Here are some of their experiences:

“i had 2 up until last June. When the senior passed, the younger one did look lost for a while but he got over it. Bedtime turned into his hated time of day because he was now alone. Before, he would watch over the older one and when she would slip he would yell the house down till someone came to help her out.”

“We lost our Rufus 2 years ago at 12 years old. Bella was a year younger. They were totally bonded. She was totally silent for about 2 months, didn’t play with her toys, etc. He always was the leader and it was like she had no idea to function without him. It was so sad. Slowly she found herself and now at 14 we’ve created a monster…lol. She’s loud and in charge!”

“I bring the other dogs to the euthanasias so they are a part of it and understand they can stop waiting for them to come home. Even if the dog/s aren’t able to be present, bringing the body home for the animals to sniff and get an understanding of the death happening is important too. My ex did that, brought her male cockers body home for his sister to sniff and work out what happened. It truly is so important.”

How to Help One Dog Get Over the Loss of Another

• Arrange play dates with doggie friends at your place or theirs. It could be a welcome distraction.

• You want to comfort your dog when he’s whining, but at the same time you want to avoid reinforcing that behavior. Offer a cuddle and play time when he’s quiet.

• Spend extra time with your dog – visit a dog friendly café, go for a ride in the car, check out a local dog park…

• Buy new toys, but don’t give them to him all at once.

• Make sure he gets plenty of physical exercise and mental stimulation. If your dogs played together a lot, you may think much of that need was satisfied, so it’s more important than ever to ensure he’s getting rid of pent-up energy. It’s also a great way to prevent the boredom and loneliness he’ll probably be feeling.

• Follow the same schedule to keep his routine going as much as possible.

• Think about joining an obedience or fun class such as fly ball, tracking or agility.

• Many people rush out and get another dog, but this is not a decision that should be made lightly. In some cases it was the best thing to do, and others didn’t end well. Are you even ready for another one?

• If your dog is simply not coping, have a chat with your vet. He can offer you a mild dose of anti-anxiety medication, or consider one of the many natural solutions available. Visit my article “How to Calm Dog Anxiety Naturally (22 Easy Ways)” for suggestions.

What is Littermate Syndrome?

It refers to the behavior problems that often arise when two sibling puppies are brought home at the same time, and raised together. It’s possible to see this syndrome in non-littermates as well.

Behaviors Associated with Littermate Syndrome

Keep in mind, degrees of severity will vary.

  • Siblings become co-dependent and develop anxiety when apart
  • Shy puppies can become increasingly withdrawn
  • Fear and anxiety around people and other dogs
  • May not bond with their humans as closely as a single dog would
  • Social development is hindered
  • Hard time in new situations when not together
  • Aggression towards each other – I witnessed this on walks with 2 border collie siblings I cared for
  • Can develop leash aggression – If you’re dealing with this right now, please read this article

Is Littermate Syndrome Another Name for Owners Who Don’t Train their Dogs?

Good question. I’ve been looking for research about this syndrome, and the only thing I found were multiple articles with a summary of an experiment done by a Guide Dogs branch. I wasn’t able to find the actual research/article written by them.

Apparently, they noticed behavior problems when two puppies were sent together to one home for training. Because of their findings they ended that practice. The issues they noticed are listed in the section above.

In my experience as a dog trainer, I have had clients who contacted me because their puppies had behavior issues, many of them found in “littermate syndrome.” In every case, I found the “owners” barely did any training, didn’t socialize them and never separated the puppies for any reason. They assumed since the puppies had each other, they didn’t need to intervene too much.

During my research I did find someone with similar experiences to myself. The article is called “There’s No Scientific Reason to Believe Littermate Syndrome Exists” and was published in the journal of the IAABC (International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants).

So, does this syndrome exist? It’s obvious the behaviors are real, so for the sake of the rest of this article, I will continue to use the term.

Do Dogs Grow Out of Littermate Syndrome?

No they don’t, as a matter of fact things can get worse if left.

Preventing Littermate Syndrome

Prevention is always best, so if you’re considering getting two puppies or recently got them, these tips will help:

  • Make sure the puppies spend some time apart each day
  • Walk them separately more often than together
  • Give them individual attention
  • Train them separately
  • Play with them separately

If it sounds like too much work, the best way to prevent it is to avoid getting two at the same time. If you want puppies to grow up together, waiting a few months before getting the second one will help.

Here is in example of how someone I know has prevented these behaviors:

Can a dog get anxious when separated from another dog

“My four girls have a day pen, and have used them since they were pups. They know when they are in there to just settle. I use them when I’m walking one of them, also when we are training, so I can work with one of them at a time. They love their pens! All good things happen in their pens! Kongs, chews, snuffle mats/boxes.” – use picture from Nikki Venditto

How to Resolve this Syndrome

You resolve it in much the same way you prevent it, by treating them as individuals.

• Socialize them separately by taking one at a time to dog friendly stores, cafes, dog parks… It’s about introducing each one to a variety of new sights, sounds and smells so they become more confident.

• Train them separately.

• Enlist a friend, neighbor or family member to walk one while you walk the other. Start off together then each take a different route, or have your friend pick your dog up 5 minutes before you’re ready to leave with the other.

You will definitely be able to have both dogs do things together, but showing them life apart from each other is very important for a happy and well adjusted dog.

Is it a Good Idea to Get Two Puppies at the Same Time?

Only you know the answer to that one, and here are some questions to ask yourself.

  • Can you afford the extra food, supplies and vet bills?
  • Do you want two dogs?
  • Who will walk and train them?
  • Do you have the time to train one dog let alone two?
  • Do you have the time to train, walk and play with two dogs separately?

If you think your dog has separation anxiety, whether you have a multi-dog household or just one, this article will help ⇒ “How to Cure Dog Separation Anxiety.”

Are you currently raising two dogs together? Have you noticed any separation anxiety when one is away from the other? What did that/does that look like and how have you helped? Sharing helps others so leave your tips in the comment section below.

Are your puppies barking, crying, exhibiting destructive behavior or have developed anxiety? Are you at your wits end because you don’t know what to do or how to help? Get in touch now and book your FREE 15 minute, no obligation consultation. It will give you the chance to share what’s going on and how you’re feeling, and I will explain how I can help. Get in touch via my FB page or website.

 

 

 

 

 

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